River Island's Body Positivity Swimwear Leaves Some People Feeling Anything But

"Ridiculous fakery in marketing," said one shopper of the 'Sorry not sorry' line.
Model Charli Howard's new swimwear line for River Island.
River Island
Model Charli Howard's new swimwear line for River Island.

High street brand River Island has launched a new swimwear line that aims to promote body positivity – but it’s left many shoppers feeling anything but.

The brand has teamed up with model and body positivity advocate Charli Howard for a collection named “Sorry not sorry: A celebration of confidence with Charli Howard”. The range includes a leopard print plunge swimsuit, a hot pink one shouldered bikini, and a white plunge swimsuit with cut-outs.

In a video promoting the range, Howard says: “I’m done with the pressure of other people’s expectations. This summer I’m celebrating everything that makes me, me.”

“I’m loving the skin I’m in... own that beautiful body. Empower yourself and wear the bikini you want. Love every fold, every dimple, every curve.

“Forget beauty standards. We look damn good.”

Howard, 31, has spoken up widely about body issues and in 2018 published her first book, Misfit, which explained how her experiences of eating disorders and anxiety directly led to her becoming a model and advocate.

However, not everyone sees the collaboration from River Island as a step in the right direction.

Social media users have been pointing out the mixed messaging of asking shoppers to “forget beauty standards” when the campaign features a mid-sized model and the swimwear being sold doesn’t cater to shoppers above a size 18.

Influencer and writer Stephanie Yeboah aired her frustrations in a Twitter thread about the new campaign, which she says represents the complete opposite of body positivity.

Yeboah, who is the author of Fattily Ever After: A Black Fat Girl’s Guide to Living Life Unapologetically, went on to say: “It’s so tiring as a plus-size content creator who works within the body image sector to constantly see brands use the body positivity movement to further push this mid-size trend, whilst leaving out the bodies that need it the most.”

It’s those bodies that are “most marginalised” and any campaign that excludes them should not frame itself around body positivity, self-love or confidence, she added.

Yeboah, 33, also highlighted the role of women of colour as pioneers of the body positivity movement and called for better allyship from mid-sized models.

The plus-sized influencer said she had also worked with River Island in the past, but felt duty bound to call out this behaviour as a “huge misstep” from the brand.

As well as the language of the campaign being at odds with the casting of Howard as a mid-size model, Yeboah took issue with the swimwear only being available in size 6 to 18 – and she wasn’t the only one.

Several influencers have called out the brand for inviting plus-sized guests to the launch of the line, “knowing” they wouldn’t be able to wear the pieces.

HuffPost UK has reached out to River Island and Charli Howard’s representatives for comment and will update this piece if we hear back.

But one Twitter user has a simple message for high street retailers: “To all brands – DO BETTER!!!”